Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Still looking for the Shapira scrolls

THEY'RE STILL FORGERIES, THOUGH: Author plays Indiana Jones on the trail of ‘the World’s Oldest Bible.’ In 1883, Moses Shapira claimed to have found ancient parchments with the text of Deuteronomy in the Judean Desert. But they were dismissed as forgeries, and he committed suicide. Decades later, the Dead Sea Scrolls were uncovered in the same area. Chanan Tigay set out to discover if Shapira was wronged (MATT LEBOVIC, Times of Israel.
BOSTON — Whether or not the “oldest Bible” he hunted was forged, journalist Chanan Tigay just wrote a myth-shattering prequel to the epic 1947 discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Set for publication by HarperCollins on April 12, “The Lost Book of Moses: The Hunt for the World’s Oldest Bible,” follows Moses Wilhelm Shapira, a Polish-born, Jerusalem-based treasure hunter who, in 1883, claimed to have found the oldest copy of the Bible. Unfortunately for the charming, social-climbing Shapira, his musty parchments’ authenticity was called into question during their exhibition at the British Museum, sending the Polish-born Shapira into a tailspin.

Without needing a spoiler alert, Tigay opens the book by examining Shapira’s suicide in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, six months after the accusation of forgery. Putting Shapira’s 1884 death up front helped Tigay probe what he said most intrigued him about the story — “what was it, in the end, that led Shapira to believe there was just no way to go on,” as the award-winning writer told The Times of Israel in an interview.


The Tigay family’s affinity for Deuteronomy includes the 40-year-old author’s father, Biblical scholar Jeffrey H. Tigay, who in 2003 wrote the Jewish Publication Society’s commentary on the book.

I'm glad someone has written a book on the Shapira scrolls, and Mr. Tigay was obviously the right person to do it. They are an interesting topic. But, even though they are lost, we have quite a bit of information about them and no one in the last century and more has been able to mount a convincing case that they were genuine. I have discussed the issue in greater detail here, here and links. I have not seen Mr. Tigay's book, but I assume that if he managed to recover any of the lost scrolls, he would have mentioned it in the interview. I do hope that some of the scrolls survive somewhere (there is some hope for this) and are recovered someday. They are important in the annals of biblical forgeries and would be worthy of study for that reason, if for no other.